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Every Girl Needs A Shero

While volunteering as a sexuality education facilitator at a public school in an impoverished area of Lagos in July 2012, I noticed day after day for 6 weeks, that the number of boys in both classes I facilitated were up to 4 times higher than the number of girls. Even the girls who came were irregular and were always distracted and sleepy when in class.

Speaking with some of the girls, they told me that many of their mates had dropped out due to pregnancy and childbirth.
Others had to assist their mothers by hawking to raise money to feed the family, making formal education impossible for them, poverty and financial dependence also contributed as the teenage girls had to negotiate sex in exchange for money to buy their basic needs like sanitary towels, bathing soap, underwear, toothpaste and body lotion.

Upon visiting Ajegunle - the community where most of the girls lived and meeting with the community heads and some of the teenage girls, together we identified that among other factors, discouragement from their mothers who they reported saying “no man would marry them if they are too educated” played a big role.

Another deterrent identified as the reason why many of the girls were not taking advantage of the little opportunity at receiving education available to them thereby causing the rate of illiteracy and school drop-outs amongst the teenage girls of this community to increase is a lack of positive role models, a feeling of isolation and inability to access basic information.

To address these issues, I intiated the “Empowering Women of the Future” project.

Along with other intervention methods, the project introduced the “Meet a Shero” segment. Using technology and computer softwares like skype and google hangouts, we introduce participants to girls and women - Sheros the world over who have gotten education at all cost and are influencing their communities positively.

We also show short documentary videos of Sheros the world over innovatively changing lives or sharing their stories and challenges, some of which the Sheros in Ajegunle are experiencing themselves on video sharing sites like youtube.

The effect of this is that a Shero in Ajegunle for example, now knows Malala because she has seen videos of and read about her, this has helped the girls develop a sense of belonging, they now know they are not alone; that somewhere on the other side of the planet a girl is experiencing similar challenges but she is determined to overcome them and get education at all cost.

To attend the problem of economic/financial dependence on intimate partners who often assault and abuse them, we download free tutorial videos on photography and makeup artistry. This has saved me the cost of having someone physically come to the community to teach them these skills and it has enabled them learn at their own pace. Some of our Sheros are now able to make people up for a fee, which they use for their upkeep.

Their perspectives and mind has broadened since they were introduced to the web. Sheros are now able to research topics on their own during meetings, questioning the things I tell them and asking me to provide links to online sources especially when it relates to sexual and reproductive health. Imagine how well they would perform if they applied that same zest in formal education.

The problem with our system of formal education is that very little consideration if at all any is given to out of school teenage girls. Technology makes it possible for education to come to them – no matter where they are, at a farm, in their shops, in their backyards or while nursing their new born.

Social media can be a neutral player when used correctly, out of school teenage girls can get information and learn in an inclusive environment where they are not labelled or made fun of or bullied into conformity or dropping out.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

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Comments

Y's picture

The program sounds wonderful!

The program sounds wonderful! Are there any incentives for the girls to obtain credits toward their educations?

Y

loyce's picture

True, every girl needs a shero!

Well done. Thank you for the great work. Keep it up.

Follow me on twitter:@livelyloyce
My blog:www.loycek.wordpress.com

hmagnussen's picture

Well done!

I think the program you have created is awesome! Hopefully when they have kid they will encourage their girls to be educated. I volunteered in Kenya and I think something like this would work great. =) Keep up the good work!

KOMoore's picture

Vweta, Your perseverance has

Vweta,
Your perseverance has been greatly rewarded! I like that you refer to these young women a sheros as well as the sheros that serve as role models to them. You have shown that even in the darkest circumstances people will respond and you have a powerful illustration of the role technology can play to improve life for individuals and for the community. Congratulations and keep up the great work.I can't say enough about what you have ignited!
Thanks for writing.

Karen

lydiagcallano's picture

You are a SHERO too!

Vweta dear, Nigeria is blessed to have you for helping the young women of Lagos through this creative and strategic initiative of yours. You are an addition to many women whose passion is to provide a means towards a productive and purposeful life for those who have been "victims of circumstances".

Continue your great deeds because you are an inspiration to the project beneficiaries and for the rest of the world who have come to know about your labor.

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

Vweta, this is a powerful piece about your powerful work as a powerful woman. Indeed, you are a model SHERO!
What comes through to me in your wonderful piece is WOMAN AND GIRL POWER!
I have been an educator for over forty years so, like you, I understand the power of education to transform lives.

I loved the way you described the multiple forms of internet technology you are introducing to the girls. As a teacher, when my students start asking for resources to pursue on their own, I know that I'm doing my job.

I liked that you discussed the role of the mother-daughter relationship in this situation. It is so important!

My work involves the role of spirituality in the lives of women and girls so I am curious as to whether or not
some of the powerful goddess of Nigeria (Oshun, Oya) could also be presented as ancient Sheroes for your students?

Keep on doing this important work because these girls need it and our global community needs it!

Louise

Louise

Rachel J's picture

You should be very proud!

Dear Vweta,

I really enjoyed reading your story. It's evident that you have a strong desire to educate teenage girls, and your passion for this work sounds like it's very contagious to those who come into contact with you. I'm sure that every young woman who has the opportunity to work with you leaves feeling so inspired. Yes, like others have said, you are a shero if ever there was one! I really admire your strength, and your hard work will positively affect so many women for generations to come.

Wishing you the very best,

Rachel

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